Conviction of Profumo `scapegoat victim` could have been challenged today
An osteopath caught up in one of the biggest political scandals of the 20th century could have had grounds to appeal against his conviction if he had lived, a new investigation reveals.
An osteopath caught up in one of the biggest political scandals of the 20th century could have had grounds to appeal against his conviction if he had lived, a new investigation reveals. Stephen Ward involved in the Profumo scandal committed suicide days after being convicted of living off the immoral earnings of prostitutes in 1963, having taken a drug overdose during his trial. A campaign by his nephew Michael and leading human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC claimed Ward was made a scapegoat by Home Secretary Henry Brooke for his role in the scandal involving then-war minister John Profumo, showgirl Christine Keeler and her Soviet naval attache lover. More than half a century on, an inquiry by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) found no evidence the prosecution was politically motivated. But it said that had Ward lived, he could have challenged his conviction at the Court of Appeal on other grounds, with the chance for it to be quashed. A CCRC spokesperson said: “In relation to the submissions that the trial was politically motivated and therefore an abuse of process, and that the Court of Appeal concealed relevant information, the CCRC has concluded that, in spite of having gone to considerable lengths to access all surviving relevant material, the available records provide no evidence to support those claims. “Those submissions therefore do not give rise to a real possibility that the Court of Appeal would overturn Dr Ward`s conviction.” However, it added: “During the course of the review, however, the CCRC did identify considerable merit in a number of other issues which might, arguably, provide grounds upon which we could refer the case for appeal. “The principal issues in that regard were the subsequent conviction for perjury of the prosecution witness Christine Keeler, and the possibility that contemporaneous media coverage of the case may have prejudiced Dr Ward`s trial. “The Commission agrees with Dr Ward`s representatives that there is considerable force in the argument that these matters could affect the safety of the conviction.” However, the CCRC said it was using its discretion not to refer the case, saying there was no public interest after 54 years and it could bring no personal benefit to Ward so long after he had died. Michael Ward launched a challenge in 2013 to clear his uncle`s name, after the original trial at the Old Bailey found him guilty. His uncle died three days after taking an overdose after the judges summing up but before he could be sentenced. Michael Ward said: The CCRC has baulked at sending this case back to court mainly because my uncle is dead and 54 years have elapsed. But the need for justice never dies and this is widely regarded as the worst injustice in modern British history. However, he welcomed the identification of the three reasons why the conviction was unlikely now to stand. Geoffrey Robertson, QC, the leading barrister who took up the case, welcomed the commissions finding. He said: The Ward trial was an appalling manipulation of justice by police, politicians and judges caught up in a moral panic. It is mysterious, suspicious almost, that every copy of the transcript of the wretchedly biased summing up [by Judge Archie Marshall] has gone missing. Nor, he said, did he accept, as suggested by the CCRC, that in the 54 years since Wards trial, there had been significant improvements in police and media practice. Mr Robertson added just look at the witchhunt against Ted Heath and Lord Bramall after the panic over Jimmy Savile. The commission concluded that there were not sufficient public interest grounds to refer the case to appeal, considering the very high workload of the Court of Appeal. Wards case was a case of its time, it said. Mr Robertson, who has written a book Stephen Ward was Innocent OK, maintains that Ward was demonised in the media and became a scapegoat for the worst unrectified miscarriage of justice in modern British history. In the 1960s, Wa